Who’s the next Food Network star? Trenton pork roll. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I admit, but I am tickled that the editors of Food Network Magazine picked my recommendation — the Summit Diner’s egg, cheese, and pork roll (a.k.a. Taylor Ham) on a Kaiser bun — to represent New Jersey in its current story on the best breakfast in each of the 50 states. The editors had contacted me back in January (I have no clue how I was selected) asking for three nominations for their July/ August issue, which is just out on newsstands. But I jumped at the chance to put one of our state’s gastronomic glories into the national limelight. The editors were specifically looking for “dishes that are memorable, wacky, locally-inspired, the kind of place locals are fanatical about and where you’d want to take your out-of-town visitors.”
Before I get to all three of my picks and my reasons for choosing them (after all, I can’t claim to have eaten everything in every restaurant that serves breakfast in the entire state) I should confess that I hadn’t even been aware that Food Network had its own magazine. A publication, moreover, that in only one year of existence has become the fastest growing food magazine in the United States, with a circulation of 1.3 million. It was also nominated this year for the nation’s top magazine award, the Ellie, presented by the American Society of Magazine Editors. It lost to GQ but was in the company of the Economist, Esquire, and Wired. And when I went to purchase three copies of the July/August issue at Barnes & Noble in MarketFair, the fellow behind the counter volunteered that his wife simply loves the magazine — and that was before I even told him I had anything to do with it.
I knew from the start that Trenton pork roll, New Jersey’s very own salty/fatty breakfast meat, would have to figure in one of my nominees. I chose the Summit Diner’s sandwich, called the Slider, because (a) diners are NJ icons — with more than 500 extant within our diminutive borders, we rank number one in the nation; (b) the Summit is housed in a vintage 1938 aluminum railroad-car style that was made right here in Jersey by the O’Mahony company — and the decor has been kept intact; (c) owner Jim Greberis sources the Kaiser rolls for his egg-cheese-Taylor Ham specialty from a nearby bakery, and (d) he charges just $4.50 for the perfectly cooked combo. (“Taylor Ham” is, of course, the popular, widely distributed brand of pork roll.)
It was my hope that the magazine’s editors would select this quintessential Jersey dish and diner to represent New Jersey but I would have been almost as pleased if they had chosen either of my other two recommendations. Mustache Bill’s Diner in Barnegat Light made my list because it, too, is a diner that serves quality, made-from-scratch fare at more than reasonable prices. I nominated owner Bill Smith’s most famous creation, Cyclops Pancakes, for which he pours a ring of batter (spiked with rye flour, the secret ingredient) onto a hot griddle and breaks an egg, carefully, into the empty center. After it is flipped and cooked through, the pancake-cum-egg is dotted with butter and drizzled with real maple syrup. The same meticulous approach applies to everything here, which is why this diner won a James Beard “America’s Classics” Award in 2009 — the first ever to go to a diner.
My third entry is a fairly local one: the charming Cafe at Rosemont, located about 40 minutes northwest of Princeton in Jersey’s picturesque Hunterdon Hills, But you’ll have to wait for a fuller description of the place and the dish — the Russian Peasant Omelet — in next week’s issue of U.S. 1 (July 7), when the cover story will feature a collection of my favorite breakfasts and breakfast places located right here in the central Jersey-U.S. 1 area.
For a complete list of Food Network Magazine’s 50 best breakfasts (“Fifty States, Fifty Breakfasts”) visit eater.com (entry dated June 23, 2010).
Summit Diner, 1 Union Place, Summit (Union County). 908-277-3256.
Mustache Bill’s Diner, 8th Street & Broadway, Barnegat Light (Ocean County). 609-494-0155.
Cafe at Rosemont, 88 Kingwood-Stockton Road, Rosemont (Hunterdon County). 609-397-4097. cafeatrosemont.com.